You CAN cook a perfect prime rib
Yes, you can cook a perfect prime rib...as long as you listen to anyone who tells you to cook it low and slow. I am AMAZED at how many well-known chefs, Youtube chefs, "expert" smokers and grillers feed the masses a completely wrong version of how to cook prime rib. It's really a shame that so many people have followed that bogus advice...especially when chefs should know better. They teach a high-temperature-cook for a low-and-slow-meat. If you follow their instructions, you will destroy a $100-$300 (or more) piece of meat and you won't be cooking a perfect prime rib.
Prime rib, when cooked correctly, is arguably the best piece of meat you can eat. Some of you will argue ribeye is best, but we are kinda both correct. Prime rib and ribeye steak come from the same primal cut of beef. The difference comes in how they are cut and cooked. Prime rib is a large cut (4-15 lbs.) cooked low and slow. Ribeye steaks are individually cut portions (8-16 oz.) and grilled quickly over high heat.
The Internet and "perfect prime rib"
If you want proof, open a browser window, type "prime rib" in the search bar and then click on "images". Look at how many of the images show a cutaway of what they describe as a "perfect" prime rib, and yet it has an inch or more of well done meat around the edge. Then look at the website names, descriptors and chefs who promote this garbage.
Seriously, as a teenager I learned correct prime rib methodology just working in a good restaurant. There we had a piece of equipment that looked like an undercounter refrigerator and was called a "cook-and-hold oven". It's purpose? To cook prime rib. Its cook temperature range? 100º to 250º. Hmm, commercial prime rib cooker with a max cooking temperature of 250º. Need I say more?
Check out these two pictures of an edge section of prime rib; the one on the left is mine, the one on the right a well-known chef who advocates "high temp prime rib". The prime rib on the left was cooked low and slow (225º). The prime rib on the right at a high temperature (400º). They both have a medium rare center, but the one on the right has a 1"-2" gray edge. Do you know what we call that gray edge? Well-done meat (not to be confused with 'meat done well').
The picture below with description is from a REALLY well-known chef. One I respect for many recipes and you would know his name if I mentioned it. He destroys this prime rib while at the same time titles his post "How to Cook the Perfect Prime Rib." I just don't understand it.
Easy ways to know if a recipe is BOGUS!
- If the recipe begins with "preheat the oven to 400º", move on.
- If the recipe is titled something like "Foolproof 500° method", scamper away.
- Look at any pictures shown with the recipe. If you see a 1" or more well done edge, run screaming!
These recipes will all produce a prime rib with some medium rare meat in the center, but a well-done circle of meat all around. If you want a correctly done prime rib, you'll need to cook it low and slow over a longer period of time and you'll need a good thermometer to assist you.
I'm done ranting...so, here is the right way to cook prime rib
Cooking a prime rib is a little nerve wracking. You've invested a significant amount of money into a meal, you probably have guests or family coming over and it may be a holiday or other special day. Below is a FOOL-PROOF method for cooking a prime rib. If you follow the process and use a good thermometer I guarantee you'll get great results.
What equipment can you use?
You can use a smoker, charcoal grill, pellet grill or other grill, as long as you can maintain a low temperature and/or an indirect heat. The recipe I did for this post was on my inexpensive Char Griller charcoal grill. I used charcoal and did an indirect heat setup. I worked perfectly and tasted amazing!
Jack's Prime Rib Process
This is what I did...adapt this to your grill, fuel type and size of prime rib and cook a fabulous prime rib!
- Charcoal grill
- 6# Prime rib
- Prime rib paste
- Horsey Sauce (optional)
My wife purchased this 9# prime rib from our local grocery store. It was on sale for $7.99/lb. and came as many do with prime rib and rib bone sections separated, but tied together with butcher string. After separating them I cooked the rib section alongside the prime rib (left tied together, the bones create a thicker section for the heat to penetrate). I trimmed some excess fat and silverskin from it, but not much. On the one edge where the fat cap was thickest I carved away most of it. As you can see, it is still a well marbled piece of meat with some fat on it.
I dry brined the prime rib rib the day before cooking. You can see the meat is a little redder on the right hand picture after it dry-brined. Read my blog post on dry brining to learn why and how it improves meat.
Day of the cook timing
First, there is the prep time of mixing the recipe, making and applying the paste and getting your grill ready. Probably around 60-90 minutes. Then I would estimate approximately 25-30 minutes of actual cook time per pound of meat. Final time is determined by temperature, not time, but that should get you close. My 6# prime rib took 3.5 hours at around 225º. Then you'll need probably 5-30 minutes to stoke up the heat for the finish sear (depending on your cooking/grilling equipment), 10 minutes to sear it and you're ready to slice and serve immediately!
Cooking a large piece of meat low and slow is always a bit of trial and error. Amongst other variables, the length, width and height of your cut may vary and this affects how quickly the heat penetrates to the center. An 18" long, 8" diameter and a 12" long, 8" diameter prime rib will cook in about the same time. A 6" long 8" diameter will cook faster as the distance to the center of the meat is only 3" based on the length rather than the width.
Prime rib paste ingredients
- 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons Jack's Blend Ancho Chili Coffee Rub
- 2 tablespoons Jack's Blend SPG
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons dried rosemary leaves (chopped)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Olive oil
- Mix all dry ingredients in a container.
- Pour enough olive oil in the bowl of spice and herb mix to make a paste.
- Completely coat the prime rib with the paste and let set until ready to cook
- Set up your grill for indirect heat or if using a pellet grill set for 225°.
- Once my grill showed about 225° I put the prime rib on the grill grate (the ribs are a bonus).
- I use a Fireboard multi-probe thermometer and on this cook used one probe for the grill temperature and two for the meat temperature. Make sure the meat probe is in the center thickest part of the meat (I used 2 probes in the the meat and averaged them).
- Picture on the left is at start, on right after about an hour.
- Prime rib with internal temp at 125° (my probes averaged 125°...one was at 120° and one at 130°). One probe may have been in the largest internal portion of fat and registered different.
- When I pulled the prime rib, it was jiggly...like a large jello...just the way it should be. I set it on a bake sheet and covered it with tin foil while I stoked the charcoal fire.
- Once the charcoal is stoked I moved the grill grates over the charcoal. When the fire was around 500°-600° (like I was ready to cook a steak) I placed the prime rib on the grate and slowly turned it - top, bottom, sides - to crisp up the outside. It took me maybe 8-10 minutes to do the whole prime rib.
- Once it is crispy and heated to your liking, place it on your cutting board and present to your guests. A little parsley or rosemary on the cutting board will accent it nicely.
- While the effect here is beautiful and my guests "ooohhh'd" and "aaahhhh'd", the real beauty comes when the meat is sliced and the perfection shows. That is when I exhaled and rejoiced!
As you can see, the meat is a perfect medium rare from top to bottom and side to side. There is not a 1" or more edge of well done meat with a medium rare (or worse, rare and "purple" or bloody center).
What if a guest wants their prime rib more done?
If you have a guest who would like their slice more well done, there is an easy way to accommodate. Simply put their slice back on the grill and cook it to their desired temperature. While you and I know it was perfect the way it was, we do want our guests happy!
Personally I love my prime rib served with a horsey sauce...and I think a lot of people do. Just look at the popularity of Arby's horsey sauce with their roast beef sandwich. There are a couple variations, but the way I make mine is super simple:
- Prepared horseradish
I get out a bowl, spoon a couple of large spoonfuls of mayonnaise into it and then a small spoonful of horseradish. I then mix it up and taste. Too hot, I add a little more mayo. Not hot enough, I add more horseradish.
Alternative horsey sauce
If you want a sweeter, creamier version follow this recipe (more like Arby's horsey sauce):
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 2.5 tablespoons plus prepared horseradish
- 4 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- In a small dish, dissolve the sugar and salt in the vinegar.
- Measure the mayonnaise and horseradish into a blender. Add the vinegar solution, blend on medium speed for about 10 seconds until sauce is smooth.
- Pour the sauce into a container, cover and chill.
As you can see, cooking a perfect prime rib is not only possible, it is fairly easy and easily repeatable. Our Christmas Eve dinner with prime rib turned out so perfect, my wife immediately said, "Well, we can do this again next year." If you know my wife at all, that was the best compliment I could have received!
I'd love to have comments posted on this...especially anyone who followed the "high temp" advice from an expert, chef or other online personality (please don't name them - only looking for examples, not slamming people).